Throw Out Fifty Things

by Tiffany in Book Reviews

Over the weekend I dived into the book Throw Out Fifty Things – Clear the Clutter and Find Your Life by Gail Blanke. It is not so much about minimalism as it is about taking the beginning steps to decluttering.  The idea is to have the concrete goal of getting rid of fifty things in all the main rooms of your house. Items of the same type count as one… so 5 pairs of shoes is only one item in your overall fifty.

I started reading it on Saturday morning and by noon I was knee deep in decluttering my bedroom , which is the first room mentioned in the book. Our closet was still full of boxes I never bothered to unpack, clothes I haven’t worn because I don’t like them, and full of kids clothing and possessions. Someone, who shall remain nameless, likes to make only one stop when putting away clean laundry and thus my walk-in closet is the catch all for everybody’s stuff. It took about 3-4 hours to completely clean that room. I ended up with 4 large boxes of giveaway stuff and all the dust bunnies were swept away, even the ones under my bed. And of course I had some serious “talks” with my kids about things like rotting banana peels thrown under there. No more eating in mom’s bed is a new rule.

I really thought we were very “decluttered” after two moves but I still had quite a bit of old clothing I no longer wear. My youngest son and my daughter had lots of clothes they have outgrown, and sorry but toys abandoned in the back of my closet weren’t being missed, so out they went. After the bedroom you follow the author threw other rooms until you have your fifty. I have held off on finishing because my trunk is full of stuff I have to donate and I want to get rid of that first. But afterwards I will tackle those rooms with gusto. The author also recommends the process be about two weeks in length.

The last chapters are all about clearing out the mental clutter and it has lots of good advice for that too. By far my favorite thing about this book though is the personal stories told about decluttering, they were quite funny. There are also green tips sprinkled throughout for how to recycle many of the items you may donate.

Anyone else feeling that itch to spring clean even though it is still winter?

Monday, January 31st, 2011

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This Moment – Playing a Cardboard Guitar

by Tiffany in Tidbits

Playing a Cardboard Guitar

Happy B-Day to my little guy. He is 5!


BagUps – Bio Trash Bags

by Tiffany in A Green Home

A personal goal for my family is to eventually have a “dry” garbage can that requires no liner or bag. You see the greenest way to address the plastic garbage bag issue is not to use one. Ideally we would compost all our wet stuff and only put dry stuff in the unlined can. There are a couple reasons why this just cannot be at the moment. First, our kids are still young enough to make lots of messes and a garbage can with no liner would be a nightmare. My youngest for instance has thrown soup or even drinks in there when he is done eating because he can’t reach the sink. Hopefully when they get a little older, and less messy, we can do the dry can thing. Secondly we have no outside cans and all garbage we have has to be bagged and put on the curb for pickup. Still we are motivated to try and overcome these issues over the next year and using more planet friendly garbage bags until that time is a way to alleviate some of our garbage guilt. One part of that is the fact that we just ordered a worm condo for the kitchen where all our food will be composting soon… pretty excited about that!

Anyway, we have been using BagUps for our biodegradable trash bags recently. It is a trash bag system that makes the whole process just a bit easier and lot more planet friendly. I have heard arguments for why bio bags are not that much better than regular plastic since landfills are not conducive to the composting requirements of bio bags but if you have to choose between one or the other I will choose the one most likely to biodegrade. Until we can do a completely dry can, this is the best option.

BagUps uses biodegraable bags and a 100% recyclable box. The box sits at the bottom of the trash can and the bags stay attached to it. When you pull out the bag you just pull at the perforated line and detach it. Then the new bag can just be pulled up and over the can, easy peasy. The key to making this work though is not to overfill the bag though, which could mean more bag usage unless you are motivated to just try to make less garbage, I opted for the latter. They are made in the USA by veterans and people with disabilities so that is another bonus.

Benefits of undergoing a “Trash Can Makeover” include:

  • BagUps biodegrade over 2 years, as opposed to the industry standard 2,000.
  • You’re buying American made.
  • Never having to reach down into the can since the next bag is always attached.

On the downside they are pricier than regular bags. I am not sure why everything green has to immediately cost more. They are also see through, which is probably due to their “green-ness” but since we put our trash on the curb I kinda cringe at everyone seeing everything we have in there, LOL. Not a big deal though.

We have only ever tried one other green garbage bag and we prefer these I think. The others used to rip all the time. if you care to learn more they have a Facebook and Twitter account too.

What does your trash can set up look like? Maybe I can learn a trick or two!

Friday, January 21st, 2011

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Radical Homemakers

by Tiffany in Book Reviews

Handmade Home Dish Mat

I may be one of the last people to review this book but alas I was number #60 on my library lending list. Does that tell you it is good or what? Well, either good or controversial… perhaps both, but I “mostly” enjoyed it. The book is Radical Homemakers – Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes.

It basically seeks to show how we all used to be homemakers (even the men) and how industrialization caused men to leaves homes for work and women to become the main homemakers. The women then had the lions share of home work and upkeep thus making many of them feel subjugated and feeling the need for some “liberation”. Companies stepped up to the plate to offer convenience products and foods which made women’s lives easier but it also meant the creation of a consumer society. Homes went from units of production… growing food, preserving foods, sewing clothes, bartering within their community… to units of consumption. We became consumers who relied on companies and corporations for most of our needs and high paying jobs to support all of this consumption. Many families even found that both partners needed to work outside the home to support this lifestyle.

Homemaking though is essentially where it starts though. What we can or cannot do in the home is what requires us to make all of these consumer purchases and spend so much time working outside the home. Shannon Hayes makes a case for why returning home and being homemakers improves family, community, social justice, and the health of the planet.

The first half is rather like a thesis making a case for how we have became a society of consumers and what that has meant for families, communities, and the planet. The second half shows us what we can do to get back in the home and make it a more self sufficient, unit of production. It does this by highlighting the lives of 20 radical homemakers and sharing their thoughts about how returning or staying home (sometimes mom AND dad) has been life altering and empowering.

I kept reading this book and thinking I knew a person or two who NEEDS to read it… usually die hard Republicans who tout the benefits of a capitalist society. There was however one area of the book I really did not like. It makes a case for why we might want to forgo the healthcare system and traditional health insurance and all the reasons why. That was all good and fine and it did seem to make exceptions for children. Then in the next breath it condoned choosing to stay at home and not seek out employment to cover these costs and instead sign up for Medicaid. That whole section just rubbed me the wrong way but I fully admit I am not so liberal in my views on welfare and healthcare. Then a few pages after that it makes an argument for why it is perfectly okay to live off welfare.

Okay I am down with living with less, simplifying, sticking it to the man, becoming self sufficient, going off-grid, and doing without but how is using tax payer funded assistance programs taking care of yourself? It isn’t and the argument for why it is fell flat IMO. These programs are not meant to be lifestyle choices. It is kind of like saying that you choose to raid the tip jar on the grocer’s counter for the rest of your life instead of finding a way to pay for your own groceries. Oh and tip jar contributions are mandatory for everyone else. You are not a self sustaining productive unit if you are taking government aid. The goal should be to get by without that.

I did however love the idea of building your friendships and your community so that you can support each other. Bartering was discussed at length and I think that is a key ingredient of self sufficiency in this day and age. I also liked the section on homeschooling.

Overall I like the message in this book and I think there is a lot to be gleaned from it. I am glad I got it from the library though, since it won’t be a book I read more than once.

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

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Eco Friendly and Sustainable Dollhouses

by Tiffany in Natural Toys

Eco Friendly and Sustainable DollhousesOne of the latest trends in greener, more planet friendly toys is the surge of sustainable dollhouses on the market. One reason for this, I think, is because wood dollhouses already have a HUGE advantage over cheapy plastic ones… they are more attractive and more like a real home. It is rare that I see a plastic dollhouse that actually catches my eye these days and I can’t say that for all plastic toys in general. But when it comes to doll houses and play kitchens… wood is far more attractive and far more eco friendly as a bonus. The modern day versions of eco friendly dollhouses are so darn cute it makes me want to play with them. Either that or hand one over to an architect and tell them to duplicate in a life size version.

Here are some my favorites that I have highlighted. One or two of these might still be in the future of my little girl (almost 7 now) but if not I doubt I will quit bookmarking them because they are so darn cute!

My FAVE has got to be the Bamboo Sunshine Dollhouse from HaPe International which makes those bamboo race cars I love so much. It is made of sustainable bamboo obviously, which is a grass that grows in 3 years, much faster than trees. It has a polished look that I love and this cute house is just adorable. It is rather pricey and all the furnishings come separately but this is more of an investment piece, something you will take care of. It can last for several generations if taken care of and it will be just as timeless tomorrow as it is today. I love the sleek design and lines, the WORKING solar panel, the real LED lights, the partitions, the winding staircase, and all the rooms. You can pack a lot of fun in this little house. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the gorgeous sets that can be bought for this including this greenhouse that can be used to grow REAL plants and herbs. Love, love, love this dollhouse. I wish it weren’t so spendy but this really is the Cadillac of eco dollhouses.

Another cute one is the Wonderworld Eco-Friendly Eco House. This one would be especially attractive to boys with the blue and green color scheme. What I like about it is that it is green – aka environmentally friendly rubber wood, non-toxic paints, dyes and lacquers and formaldehyde free glue – but also “pretend green” with solar panels, recycle bin, rain water collection system, and a wind turbine. The packaging is also made from 70% recycled materials.

It is a two story wooden playhouse that includes kitchen set, bedroom set, three wooden dolls and bathroom set as long as all the adorable features I mentioned above. The Eco range is part of Wonderworld’s new collection of products to educate children to the importance of recycling, saving energy and being friendly to our environment. The Eco House Wooden doll house comes complete with room settings and family. Themes include recycling, planting trees, solar panels, scooter and collecting rain water. I give it an A+.

After two rather pricey dollhouses this Krooom carboard dollhouse might be a breath of fresh air.

Fully foldable and completely flat in its package, no tools assembly. – Waterproof coating. Meets standards of moisture-resistance. – All graphics are applied with the highest quality printing. – Made of reinforced cardboard recycleable material. – Very strong and sturdy. – Environmental friendly. Free from hazardous substances. Corrugated board withstands top and side pressure, is crush resistant and has a high burst strength. It is impact, drop and vibration-resistant, yet light in weight. This would be an excellent dollhouse for a younger kiddo who might not take care of one of the nicer ones and it is an attractive budget option too.

Plan Toys is another fave brand of mine for kidlet toys and I like their Green Dollhouse with Furniture. Wonderful for older kids…  say 6 and up. Like the other above it is green on two counts. It is made from nontoxic natural materials such as organic rubberwood AND it has an energy efficient design that includes a wind turbine, a solar cell panel, and an electric inverter for generating electricity, a rain barrel for collecting rain. There is also a biofacade, which uses the natural cycle of plant growth to provide shading, and a blind that can adjust to the amount of sunlight and air circulation. Recycling bins are also included with the house. This dollhouse also comes with furniture for five rooms: Living room, kitchen, bathroom, children’s bedroom and master bedroom. This beautiful dollhouse and furniture are crafted from recycled, natural rubber wood, dyed with vegetable and soy dyes, and assembled in an earth-friendly process. The Plan Toys green dollhouse for younger kiddos (2-5) is here.

A rather atypical dollhouse would be this exclusive from Magic Cabin. It is a mushroom house for dolls or gnomes. The mushroom-shaped abode is perchance the most charming home for gnomes ever seen. The sturdy wooden two-story dollhouse comes with lots of perfectly sized accessories: table, two chairs, two beds, red-checked bedding and pillows, two evergreen trees and eleven animals. The posable dolls are handmade in Brazil with soft wool hair and stuffing and cotton clothes. I just love all the little forest animals!

Okay I was done but then I remembered another unique dollhouse I featured a few weeks back.. the Enchantmints Fairy Forest Lodge. It is a treehouse for dolls and is quite adorable if I do say so myself. I tried to score one of these for Christmas when Magic Cabin had these for half off! But alas they went in minutes and I wasn’t so lucky. My daughter loves fairies though so this may still be in the cards for us.

Do your little ones have an new eco friendly dollhouse or do you prefer second hand ones?